Nokia says the just-announced Nexus 7 tablet from Asus violates its Wi-Fi patents. Maybe this is a hint of Nokia's 'contingency plan?'
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According to Nokia, Asus failed to license a select number of patents for use in its Nexus 7 tablet. The Nexus 7 was announced by Google at its developer conference on June 27. The new tablet didn't make it five days without being accused of intellectual property malfeasance. What is this tech world coming to?
In a statement sent to The Inquirer, Nokia said, "Nokia has more than 40 licensees, mainly for its standards essential patent portfolio, including most of the mobile device manufacturers. Neither Google nor Asus is licensed under our patent portfolio."
The patent in question this time around pertains to the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard. However, it appears that Nokia isn't going to slap Asus and Google with a patent infringement lawsuit (thank goodness). Instead, Nokia's blustering is more likely meant to coax the two companies into licensing its patents properly.
"Companies who are not yet licensed under our standard essential patents should simply approach us and sign up for a license," said Nokia. Nokia didn't say what will happen if Google and Asus ignore its not-so-subtle hint. For its part, Asus declined to comment on the matter.
Whether or not Nokia chooses to litigate this specific case, is it possible that Nokia has tipped its hand with respect to its "contingency plan?" Perhaps.
Last week, Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa dropped hints during a live television appearance that the company has a backup plan in development that could be used to save it if everything collapses with its Windows Phone business. Siilasmaa didn't say what the plan is.
Nokia has few options.
The company might divest certain business units or properties, or spin off divisions into their own corporations. It could adopt Android in addition to or in lieu of Windows Phone, or it could litigate the bejesus out of every other smartphone player in the market.
Nokia is sitting on a massive pile of cell phone and wireless technology patents. While it has pursued some patent-related lawsuits, it has been less active on that front than competitors Apple and Samsung. The two market leaders are in a protracted series of legal battles ranging from the U.S. to Europe and Australia.
The real question is, how many of Nokia's patents are deemed standard essential? Standard essential patents have to be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Nokia would not be successful at attempting to litigate such patents. The rest of its portfolio offers a higher payout potential.
But that's taking the low road, if you ask me. I'd rather see Nokia beat its competitors on the playing field with good smartphones that people will want to buy. Any contingency plan that doesn't include boosting its sagging phone sales may not be any better than its current course of action.
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